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Poison puffer fish sold as salmon

THAILAND - Unscrupulous vendors in Thailand have been selling the flesh of the deadly puffer fish disguised as salmon, causing the deaths of more than 15 people over the past three years.

Although banned since 2002, puffer fish continue to be sold in large quantities at local markets and restaurants, said Narin Hiransuthikul of Bangkok's Chulalonkorn University Hospital.

"Some sellers dye the meat of puffer fish and make it look like salmon, which is very dangerous,'' said Dr Narin.

He said that during the past three years, more than 15 people had died and about 115 were hospitalised from eating the fish. The ovaries, liver and intestines of the puffer fish contain tetrodotoxin, a poison that can produce rapid and violent death.

The fish is called fugu in Japan, where it is consumed by thrill-seeking Japanese gourmets for whom the risk of poisoning adds piquancy. Every year, there are reports of people dying or falling sick in Asia from eating puffer fish, which can cause paralysis, vomiting, heart failure and death.